My new pickup truck, like all new GM vehicles, has OnStar (a satellite service which allows for everything from calling an ambulance to finding out where the closest McDonald’s is). They have offered for me free, as a hook, a month of “turn by turn directions.” Pretty cool eh? It isn’t for me. They are quite literal in their “turn by turn” directions. Imagine driving for ten miles with a computer voice telling you where to go. There is a lot of “don’t turn here”, “keep going”, and even “you are 200 feet from your destination” comments. For me, it is as if they have created the ultimate bad backseat driver. At the same time, I want to learn some of the backstreets better than I know them now. Even with its annoying nature, sometimes it knows what I want to know.
By contrast, when I went through survival training in ROTC, they dropped us off in this wilderness area with some sparsely filled in maps and a compass. Needless to say, our gaggle of cadets were never quite sure where we were for at least the first day until we could spot some major geographic references to put it all together. We probably should have paid more attention than we did when it was all being initially explained.
I feel these two different stories allegorically to be very much in play in the church today. As most know who read my blog, I serve a parish in the Presbytery of South Louisiana. The churches in our presbytery each have unique aspects to their histories but are largely facing the same dilemmas. And as a larger community, our presbytery surely has unique aspects to it but faces similar challenges that other presbyteries face around the nation. The challenge we all face is finding leaders who will lead inspirationally and followers who will listen, learn, and apply new learnings. No one wants to practice their faith, either close to home or in the larger church, just going “turn by turn” as someone else tells us. But similarly, those who have experience in the church don’t want to see bad decisions (or no decisions) being made. If we are to make wise decisions, we have to listen and learn from those who come to help us. But not for them to solve our problems. The goal should always be for us to learn how to navigate ourselves and not be dependent on someone (or something) else.
How do we strike that balance? How do we ‘figure out the directions’ when ‘the experts’ gone? Or if ‘the experts’ are still here, how do we not become overly dependent upon them? With difficulty for sure. I don’t plan to keep ‘On Star Directions’ but I might use it to learn where or the best way to get to some places in the next four weeks.
In the same way, with the confidence that God is with us and the humility to know that none of us have all the answers – spiritually we find our way together if we listen, learn, and apply.
Until next time,